Whatever the case, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE was released, though I have read that it went through a tremendous rehash: originally scripted as a two-picture idea from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (the same pair basically behind ID4), RESURGENCE felt more like “regurgitation” as I suspect plenty of changes were made to get this to a single cinematic adventure. Several of the original’s big players returned; Earth was reset for an all-new level of catastrophe; and the studio was prepared with yet one more event picture to dump in the busy summer marketplace.
How does the feature fare?
Twenty years after the events of INDEPENDENCE DAY, Earth has been quickly rebuilt, largely owed to the inclusion of technology left over from the last shellacking the nefarious aliens suffered at Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum’s hands. However, Smith’s Capt. Steven Hiller is no longer with us, his flying career ended with the tragic first test-flight of the alien/Earthling hybrid aircraft. His son – crack pilot Dylan Hiller – has stepped up to the plate, along with a new team of Millennial fighter pilots all willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. As fate would have it, the aliens weren’t done with the big blue marble, and their return only means gangbusters for the box office, right?
Sadly, if you’ve seen the first DAY then you’ve seen this one as RESURGENCE basically retreads practically every thematic beat from the feature that inspired it, which essentially was a modern retelling of George Pal’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (itself inspired by the H.G. Wells’ novel). Like the original, the aliens arrive with little to no warning; and – like the original – a goodly portion of the flick is spent destroying Earth’s most popular tourist destinations (a sentiment even worked into the script for light humor). And – just like in the original – it’ll all find itself back in Jeff Goldblum’s hands (he’s been promoted from TV network repairperson to the head of Earth’s global defenses in perhaps the least credible instance of the Peter Principle caught on film) to save the day … naturally along with a little help from those aforementioned Millennials: they’re here to save us all, you know.
The newest additions to the cast – Sela Ward as President Lanford, Patrick St. Esprit as Sec/Def Tanner, and Chin Han as Commander Jiang – are paper thin and really only serve to fill space until the aliens show up gunning for new blood as they’re somewhat ceremoniously dispatched before given a chance to mean a thing to viewers. Otherwise, RESURGENCE tends to be more about one special effects sequence after another whereas the first one more fashionably balanced each character’s relative quirkiness between the destruction. Not a single one of the newbies – those who survive as well as those who don’t – exhibit the kind of benign machismo even the earliest victims did in ID4, so one has to wonder whether or not director Emmerich decided good storytelling needed a sabbatical or he was just being lazy.
Still, this isn’t to say that RESURGENCE lacks a few good ideas because that’s far from the case. For example, Pullman’s Whitmore nicely puts this story in motion by revealing he’s lived the last twenty years with tortured nightmares, a reality often cited by UFO abductees and contactees since that phenomenon was embraced by popular culture. Liam Hemsworth’s newcomer – shuttle pilot Jake Morrison – tries hard to bring some of the Will Smith formula to his performance, and just about the time he flips the aliens “the bird” and begins urinating on the floor of the sprawling alien mothership you’ll believe he could’ve pulled it off had the script given him more time (and a bit more focus). And newcomer Deobia Oparei plays an African warlord who has spent the last two decades in up-close-and-personal hand-to-hand combat with the remaining offworlders who took up residence on his continent: while much of his storyline ends up being plot exposition to help explain RESURGENCE’s timeline, I would’ve gladly spent more time unspooling the life he must’ve led instead of the life he ends up leading here.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out one huge problem between the original and its sequel: in ID4, Earth was the underdog … but in RESURGENCE we essentially begin on the same playing field, largely due to the fact that we’ve incorporated so much of their technology into our daily lives. Sure, this isn’t the case with every aspect of this planetary second coming, but the aliens seem to have more moxie this go-round than they did the first time. How can Earth resume its underdog status in a story so centered on our being in that capacity from start-to-finish? Logically, you’d think someone would’ve seen that problem coming a mile away; alas, it wasn’t meant to be in TinselTown.
That’s the dirty little secret about SciFi summer releases: they tend to be quick and glib with the facts and figures because what matters most is the “shock and awe” of tent-pole spectacles. Characters get short shrift as effects work gets bigger and bigger. Consequently, there’s little substance here – and I’m not saying that the original had much more – but what there is may just be enough to keep viewers interested for the purposes of their $10 admission price alone. Heck, Jeff Goldblum is even peddling his shtick in TV commercials these days: does anyone really want to see THAT again on the silver screen? I’m not saying he didn’t need a RESURGENCE: I’m only saying he needed better material and a vastly stronger cast around him to make the same old song-and-dance worthwhile for a second helping, so matter how much money the effects team was given.
I’ll admit I was disappointed with the follow-up, but – like I most – I couldn’t look away from the destruction. Car crashes tend to be like that, too, and that’s not a good thing.